Soda companies stress exercise, other products

BY MACK SPENCER

Daily Journal

While the American Academy of Pediatrics has panned the practice of selling soft drinks in schools, soda company officials say other factors are just as important in battling childhood obesity.

“Our company's stance is that all students need to have proper nutrition from a balanced diet, which does not necessarily exclude soft drinks, and that students also must have plenty of exercise in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle,” said Ken Williams of Tupelo's Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

The past weekend, the Daily Journal ran a series of stories about access to soft drinks by area school students, and the pediatric association's concern for their link to childhood obesity.

Williams said his company and others also provide most, if not all, of the sugar-free and caffeine-free drinks, juices, some milk drinks and water that schools offer for sale to students from school stores or vending machines.

“Any of our customers, including schools, can purchase any of our products that they wish to,” Williams said. “We have all kinds of products for all kinds of needs.”

Doubts disclaimers coming

Williams said he doubted that soft drink companies would resort to disclaimers in their advertising similar to the “Please drink responsibly” message now aired by makers of alcoholic beverages.

“Anything can be fattening, except for water,” Williams said. “I don't know that Coke would ever take that (advertising) stance.”

The National Soft Drink Association, which includes Coca-Cola, Pepsi Americas and other soda producers, countered the pediatric association's claims by noting the variety of non-soda products the companies offer and the need for more exercise.

The NSDA's press release quoted a National Association for Sport and Physical Education statistic that says only 25 percent of students have daily physical education classes or participate in daily physical activities.